At times, when we have been really broke, I've had random thoughts go through my head - like: if only I could find a check in the mail instead of a bill... just once. Like maybe the utility company would pay me for being such a good customer all these years... ha! Or maybe I would envision this scenario: I save the child of a millionaire from crossing the street on a green light... or something... and then the father asks me what I need and while I'm thinking: a 100.00 for a repair job on my car would be nice, the dad busies himself by writing a check for a thousand! (Well, I said upfront that sometimes I have random thoughts!)
So has anything like that ever happened to you?
Except... according to Eph. 1:7, I think maybe it has.
When we were in Memphis a couple of weeks ago, I was stressed. I realized that somehow I had inadvertently made our hotel reservation through a third party. This meant we would be paying 150.00 to possibly 200.00 more than we should have been paying for our three day stay in Memphis. By the time I navigated the worst phone maze I'd ever encountered, talked to at least 3 different people overseas, and been directed to first a subsidiary of Expedia and then a subsidiary of the subsidiary of Expedia (no one would tell me the name of the company I had somehow booked our reservation through) - at any rate, after slightly more than an hour on my cell phone, I finally got to someone who acknowledged our reservation. By this time, I was on the verge of tears. And then, when they told me I could cancel the next two nights of my reservation but I would have to pay the entire amount of the reservation as a penalty, I was no longer on the verge of tears, I was bawling.
The woman on the other end of the line was concerned - I could hear it in her voice. She asked me, "Ma'am, could you please give me a reason why you have to cancel." The way she said it, I knew instinctively that she was wanting me to say the magic words "illness" or "death" as my reason for cancelling. But I knew I simply wanted to cancel so I wouldn't have to pay the extra money. I felt sure that there had to be some deceit in the way the subsidiary of the subsidiary had lured me onto their web site without my knowing it so I was tempted to lie - after all, turnabout is fair play.
But I'm pretty sure lying is a sin!!!:( So I opted to remain silent.
The woman asked me again, almost pleading. Bottom line: I compromised. I told her the truth, "I want to be home with my son." (And at that point, I did!) But I knew the implication - that I was canceling the reservation because I would be going home to be with my son - I knew that was a lie.
As soon as I said the words, the woman said, "Let me talk to the manager!" Within seconds, she was back on the line, telling me the good news - that they would wave the penalty for the two nights that I was canceling. Then she told me to go clear it with the hotel, which I did.
I "checked out" of the hotel and instantly rebooked at the cheaper rate for the next two nights - in the very same room I had just "vacated".
Then I had to navigate the phone maze again in order to confirm that I had checked out of the hotel. I got a different person on the phone and this lady asked me three different times to state my reason for canceling. This time I just flat out lied by saying that I was going home to be with my son who was sick. (Our son was sick but at 22 years of age, he hardly needed me to come home to be with him and as I've already said, I had just finished reserving a room for us for the nights I had just cancelled - I wasn't going anywhere).
Normally I don't lie and I pride myself on that. But even more, I know that lying is a sin and sin is serious business, no matter how small it may seem at first glance. But still, I did it. I felt terrible, but I did it. The next day, after I'd had some rest, I seriously considered calling them back, confessing, which would mean paying for the two day stay twice which at that point I was willing to do. However, I didn't make the call, largely because I had phone numbers scribbled all over a piece of paper but no names -not even of the company I was dealing with- and I just didn't feel like I could handle the phone maze all over again. Plus, I wondered if they put people in jail for lying to nameless companies...
Going back to the previous day, after I finally got off the phone and the deal was done, I walked to the nearest store, which happened to be a Christian bookstore. God helped me at that point as I confessed my sin first to Him, silently, and then to a total stranger who saw I was distressed and who cared enough to stop, listen, and counsel me and then, finally, God helped me once again through the words of Christian authors as I browsed through books there in the store. I left feeling better, calmer, but still guilty. I mean I had done wrong and forgiving my sin was more than enough. I wasn't supposed to feel comforted!
But this week I looked at Ephesians 1:7 and that's when I saw it: one little phrase, "... according to the riches of His grace." And I knew that was it! He forgives on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus, out of the riches of His grace... He doesn't whip out His checkbook of grace, lick the tip of His fountain pen (for some reason I don't think He uses Bic pens but I could be wrong), stare over the top of His glasses at me, and grudgingly write out a 70.00 "check" to cover my 100.00 sin, taking the other 30.00 worth of grace out of my hide as He lectures me for the wrong I have done.
Instead, He gives me a thousand dollars worth of grace by not only forgiving my sin but by sending others into my path to comfort me, by calming me down, by giving me rest that evening, and by restoring me to fellowship with Him - all things I clearly did not deserve.
So, yes, in a way that matters deeply to me, I have asked for a 100.00 worth of forgiveness, so to speak, and received a 1000.00 worth of grace in return. And in the process I have learned something; that He measures grace to us, not on the basis of our need but on the basis of how much He can afford to give. And I can testify that He can afford to give a lot...
So many times we exclaim, "Thank God!" and we don't really mean it.
Tonight, I'm not only saying it, I'm meaning it.
"in Him, we have redemption, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace." Eph. 1:7.
Or as the song writer, Annie Flint, put it:
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.